It all started with a love of the ocean. Garden State native Olivia Hartgers grew up spending summers alternating between Bethany Beach, Delaware, where her mother grew up, and the Jersey Shore, where her father has deep roots. Regardless of the state, summer life centered around the ocean, hanging at the beach and surfing with her brothers. But, she says, something always bothered her. “I could never find a surf outfit that wasn’t boyish,” she explains. “All us girls looked silly in these not-cute outfits.”
So, armed with an art degree and an eye for fashion, Olivia—partnering with her mother Ellen, an oncology nurse turned business owner—launched her own swimwear line. Olive Surf is eco-friendly fashion for an active lifestyle. The swimwear collection is made from 100-percent recycled ocean waste—think nylon fishing nets, plastic water bottles and more. Even the dyes are eco-tested and chemical free. “I’m very conscious of waste and wanted to make this sustainable,” the designer says.
Olivia’s first collection, launched in summer 2021, was inspired by a mother-daughter yoga trip to Indonesia. It’s a combination of neutral earth tones—the mainstay of the collection, which includes the best-selling Bri, a lacy, full-coverage suit—and a few brightly colored, tropical-inspired prints.
Olivia draws every print, first in watercolors, then digitally, and has them printed in a nontoxic process on the eco-friendly fabric she imports from Italy. “I’m a lifelong sketcher,” she says. “I’m always doodling.” Her designs are inspired by everyday events. “I’ll see someone on the street in an off-the-shoulder top and think it’s a good look for a suit,” Olivia says.
She stresses that her swimsuits are made for all ages and all body types. “The designs are full coverage with a hint of sexiness,” she says. “I want them to be fashionable, but look cute and feel comfortable.”
Currently sold on the Olive Surf website, the swimsuits can also be found on Wolf and Badger, a web-based retailer of independent designers. The hope is to be in a few brick-and-mortar stores by summer, says Ellen.
The duo named their company Olive Surf as a play on extending an olive branch, Olivia explains. “We hope to give back to mental health initiatives and other worthy causes,” she says. “Not only are we looking out for the environment, we’re looking out for others.”